Sep 28, 2016

Homeschool Review Crew: The Cat of Bubastes

After all the times we have reviewed for Heirloom Audio Productions, I hardly need to mention that we were excited to receive their newest adventure... The Cat of Bubastes.

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes

We have reviewed all of the first five of these adventures, so we were incredibly excited to receive the sixth story to listen to and review. Since we spent a lot of time in ancient Egypt in our history studies last year, the kids were interested in a story set there.

The great thing about Heirloom Audio is that their stories are not just books read aloud. No, these are full scale presentations with different actors, sound effects, and a musical soundtrack. It is a listening experience! It is high-quality as well, produced in London with well-known actors doing the voices. People that my kids delightedly recognize, like Sylvester McCoy (Dr. Who, The Hobbit), Elizabeth Counsell (The Chronicles of Narnia), and John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones).

In addition to the 2 disc CD set, we were also sent a myriad of bonuses:

MP3 of the production so we can listen in other places besides the car or on that one specific computer that actually has a working CD drive.

Cat of Bubastes E-book in full color so that we can read the original story. These books are not your everyday e-books, either! They are well formatted and on a lovely Egyptian background with pictures of a cat and of the Sphinx.

Official MP3 Soundtrack so that we (if we were of a mind to) could listen to the music from the story. I am not that kind of person, but sometimes my children like that sort of thing.

a printable cast poster

inspirational verse poster because each story is entwined with a Scripture verse that illustrates what the main character learns about the character of God.

access to Live the Adventure Website

a behind-the-scenes video that is fun and interesting to watch if you are at all curious about how these productions are put together!

and finally, a Study and Discussion Guide   This is 47 pages long PDF and perfect for helping your kids dig a little deeper into the story. The Study Guide is divided into naturally occurring segments of the story and each segment has questions that are separated into three categories: Listening Well (which are basic comprehension questions), Thinking Further (which requires drawing conclusions or further research or just a little more thinking on the part of the child), and The Defining Word (which are vocabulary words your child might not know. The definitions are not given, they have to be looked up.)

The Study Guides are always one of my favorite parts because they include pictures, historical background information, Bible studies, maps, and even the occasional activity suggestion. I enjoy looking at it with the kids. We go over the questions orally as a group. I don't make it a high-pressure sort of thing, we just read the questions and whoever has an answer or an idea or a thought will chime in. When they run out of stuff to say, we move on to the next section!

The Cat of Bubastes is a story set in Ancient Egypt. It actually starts on the shores of the Caspian Sea with a young prince, Amuba, and his friend Jethro, who have been captured after a battle where Amuba's father was killed. They are taken to the city of Thebes where the real adventure begins. They are sold into slavery yet eventually form relationships with their owners.  I don't want to give away the story, so I will just say that Amuba is introduced to the Egyptian gods but also to the One True God. He learns about slavery to sin and freedom in God as well as God's provision. The "tragic" death of a cat (worshiped by the Egyptians) leads (eventually) to an unforeseen happy ending for all.

The Cat of Bubastes is an exciting story that encourages character and points kids to the One True God, educates students about the culture of ancient Egypt, and entertains with a quality story line. As we always do with Heirloom Audio Productions, we enjoyed it thoroughly and highly recommend it.

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes

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Sep 27, 2016

Homeschool Review Crew: Spencer Learning

My younger two children, who are 4th and 5th graders, are both late/struggling readers. My 4th grader, who is a girl, is actually starting to blossom a little. She reads for pleasure on her own, at least, and chooses chapter books whereas my 5th grade son never reads unless he has to and, if left to his own devices, still chooses picture books.

I strongly believe that their struggle is mostly retaining the basics. They took a long time to master letter sounds and are still learning some of the phonemes. So I was interested in reviewing Ultimate Phonics Reading Program from Spencer Learning to see how it would help.

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}
Ultimate Phonics is a downloadable software program. It was super easy to install and set up. Then I was able to let the kids pretty much navigate it on their own. For us, the only hard part in getting them started was that they were not beginners, so we had to figure out where they needed to be. There are 262 lessons, starting with letter sounds (the first letter it teaches is "b) and progressing through all the phonemes to "ture". 
Each lesson is pretty much the same. If you look at the screenshot below, you can see the lesson number. Clicking on that lets you choose which lesson you want to go to. Or you can navigate with the double green fast forward or reverse buttons. The single green buttons move you forward or backward within the lesson. You can also choose to move around by clicking on the Pattern button. 

If you click on the Pattern button, you can choose your lesson based on the phoneme rather than the lesson number. And the History button tells you, obviously, where you have been. This is nice for "checking up on" those wily students that say, "Oh, I've done the work!" even if they haven't. It is also helpful if you are jumping around hitting weak spots and are also forgetful like we are. Using the History button keeps you up to date on where you've been.

So, the above screen is the first page in the lesson. It introduces the phoneme. If you click on the sound button, the text is read to you. Clicking on the yellow box lets the child hear the sound of the phoneme. 
The next page is below... a list of words. Clicking or scrolling over the words activates the sound feature and the words are read aloud. 

Next, each word comes up individually. The word in black is read as a whole word, the yellow boxes are read in parts as you click or scroll. 

After those pages are pages of sentences. Again, clicking or rolling means they are read aloud. You can hear the whole sentence at once or choose just a particular word. You can even right click a specific word and have it sounded out for you. After the sentences is the next lesson. 

As I said, this is a simple and easy program. The kids could easily handle it on their own. Since it is not flashy and little kid-ish, it can be used with older, struggling readers and not just young beginners. It is a complete program. Once your student has worked their way through all 262 lessons, they will know all the phonemes in the English language. 
This was not a great fit for my kids at this time. I think a couple years ago, Daniel would have greatly benefited from Ultimate Phonics. The slow, steady, repetitive pace with lots of help and no pressure would have been perfect for him. Right now, though, they are both past needing a program like this. They have the ability to read fairly fluently even though Daniel doesn't yet like to. Daniel is reading at a high second grade level and Abbie is pretty solidly third grade. I do wish we had known about Ultimate Phonics earlier.
  I like the fact that it is easy to use and not sparkly and exciting. Sometimes educational programs are too much fun and my kids get so caught up the games that they never actually get around to learning anything. I like how it has so much practice with lots of different words. And I really liked how we could easily focus on the parts of the lessons that benefited us the most. Since my kids are pretty fluent, we spent most of our time in the sentences section so they just got a lot of reading practice. This was a help for Daniel's confidence. He liked that if he got stuck on a word he could click it and hear it correctly. This helped his comprehension. 
If you think Ultimate Phonics Reading Program will help your student, you can access a free trial and try it out! You can also read what other Crew Members thought by clicking on the banner below. 

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}
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Sep 24, 2016

Our Week in Pictures

The Jungle Basset doesn't realize it's a full bed, not just a pillow.

A fierce goalie!!!

I took the kids to Poetry and Tea. Daniel thought it was PoeTREE and Tea.

Another soccer picture. I have to pick and choose what pictures I put here so as not to post pictures of other children's faces. I never think about that sort of thing when I am snapping the photo! 

So I don't have a postable picture of Daniel, but he SCORED a GOAL this week!!!!!

He also found this little friend on the soccer field.

While some of us do school, others kick back and take it easy.

And finally, there is just something about math that brings out the inner snarky artist in Kaytie...

Sep 21, 2016

Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew: The Pray-ers

Most of the reviews that I do for The Homeschool Review Crew are homeschool items for the kids. However, sometimes I do reviews are that are more for just me. I have always been a voracious reader, so I was happy to be asked to review a book: The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles written by Mark S. Mirza and published by CTM Publishing Atlanta.

The Pray-ers is a thick, paperback novel. As you could probably guess from the title and the topic of prayer, it is an overtly Christian book. It reminded me of a couple of old Christian "classics" in that it dwells heavily on the themes of spiritual warfare and specifically the parts that demons, angels, and our prayers play in that warfare.

The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles

Basically, The Pray-ers is the story of a demon and his attempt to rise in the demonic ranks by being a successful tempter, wooing Christians away from following God. Demons dwell in a different time frame, than we do, obviously, so the story spans the centuries as it follows his attempts to tempt three different people: Epaphras, a leader in the first century church, Alexander Rich, an itinerant preacher in the nineteenth century, and Dale Riley, a university track coach in the "current era".

Also spanning the centuries are the angels who are, of course, subtly helping the humans remain true to God. However, they are not allowed to directly interfere when doing so would keep the human from learning the lessons God plans for them to learn.

The story flips back and forth between each time period as well as between the demons and the angels, but it is fairly easy to keep track of what is going on because the chapters are well labeled.

Although the premise in and of itself is interesting, the point of the book is not to just tell an interesting story, but to teach the power of prayer and how we are supposed to pray. Footnotes to Scripture references backing up the author's beliefs are rife throughout the book.

Prayer is an extremely important part of the life of a believer, so I was quite intrigued to read this book and see what I could learn. It is obvious that the author has researched Scripture and has put a lot of thought (and prayer) into this story. I found quite a lot of food for thought and my husband and I have discussed the book and its ideas at length, which is something I truly appreciate in a book.

However, (and, unfortunately, there is an however) in many ways this book was difficult to read. I wish the editor had done his work a little more thoroughly. There were many grammatical errors that drove me crazy and so many little, nagging issues like punctuation mistakes, paragraphs not started where they should be, fragmented sentences, and the lack of proper capitalization. In the forward, he states that he deliberately chose not to capitalize the names of the demons in order to keep from giving them that respect but as the reader, I felt more disrespected than I imagine they felt. It drove me crazy but the other errors were far more aggravating.

As a child, I used to edit books with a red pen when I disagreed with the author's choices and I really wanted to to that again here just so I could focus on the story instead of the errors. I feel sad that this interesting story and powerful teaching tool was hindered by the lack of editing.

I didn't hand this book over to my kids to read because there were a lot of "adult only" themes like abortion, sex, and rape. I say "adult only" because I did not feel these were portrayed in an inappropriate or gratuitous way for a mature reader, but are not what I would be comfortable letting my twelve and thirteen year old kids read. That's just a heads-up for you... read it yourself and decide what you are okay with as far as your own family.

For other opinions of The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles, click on the banner below!

The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles

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Sep 19, 2016

Homeschool in Pictures

Where's the baby?

The end of the rainbow is dead ahead. 

Reading about Archimedes leads to this...

Opinions spilling over into math class.

The littlest student

Nature study in the backyard.

Brothers, books, puppies, and popcorn.. could it be any better?

Sep 11, 2016

Middle Ages Book List

We are going to do History a little differently this year (read: more simply so maybe we will actually get it done!). For Middle Ages, I am happy to follow a timeline rather than try to box everything into a theme. So we are going to stick pretty closely to Mystery of History II instead of pulling a lot of different things together.

My plan is to read a lesson from MOH during our Morning Meeting. I will read from corresponding literature books then as well. We will do related "projects" in the afternoons. By projects I mean all the "fun" bits: timelines, notebooking entries, map work, foods to eat, crafts to make, volcanoes to set off, and all those sorts of things.

My booklist might be a little long. It's hard for me to say "No" to a good book! I compiled it by reading over lots of other people's lists:

Ambleside Online
Mystery of History
Tapestry of Grace
Story of the World

and several ordinary people's lists that have pinned on Pinterest.

I've been collecting Middle Ages books for several years now, by keeping my eyes peeled at the thrift store, the library book sales and when local homeschool moms sell used books. So I admit my final list was strongly influenced by what I already own. I was also more inclined to add books that were mentioned on more than one list. And I added books that I had already read and enjoyed myself.

So here is our list, in the order we will read them:

The Bronze Bow  Elizabeth George Speare                                
Twice Freed          Patricia St. John                                              
The Story of King Arthur and His Knights       Howard Pyle
Knights of the Round Table  adapted by Gwen Gross                                  
Black Horses for the King      Anne McCaffrey
The Sword in the Tree              Clyde Robert Bulla
Marguerite Makes a Book    Bruce Robertson 
The Great Wall of China   Leonard  Fisher                                   
Son of Charlemagne                 Barbara Willard                                 
Arabian Nights                 Andrew Lang                          
You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Viking Explorer
Viking Adventure              Clyde Robert Bulla
Journey for a Princess      Margaret Leighton
Otto of the Silver Hand     Howard Pyle
Men of Iron                        Howard Pyle                           
Robin Hood                        Howard Pyle
The Samurai’s Tale             Erik Haugaard
Pied Piper of Hamelin (poem)    Robert Browning
Adam of the Road        Elizabeth Janet Gray
The Door in the Wall      Marguerite de Angeli
The King and His Hawk (in the Book of Virtues)
He Went with  Marco Polo      Louise Kent
The Scottish Chiefs (Kaytie and Nate)   Jane Porter
Burns’ poem about Wallace and Bruce
Crispin the cross of lead     Avi
The Whipping Boy        Sid Fleichman
The Beggar’s Bible        Louise A Vernon
The Hawk That Dare Not Hunt By Day   Scott O’Dell
Fine Print: Johann Gutenberg                 Joann Burch

Go to my Ancient  History Landing Page


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